Typing out how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress is an infuriating experience. Because that means that these bloodsuckers have infiltrated sacred territory.
Your bed is your sanctuary, the place you come to curl up and get away from the stresses of everyday life. So finding a bed bug in your bed is more than disgusting – it’s an absolute outrage.
But don’t worry – you can get rid of them. And you can do it without throwing your expensive mattress away.
Here’s everything you need to know to put an end to this bed bugs in mattress matter.
How to Tell If a Mattress Has Bed Bugs
You found a bug crawling around on your mattress. Since it’s in your bed, it must be a bed bug, right?
The truth is that if you found a bug in your bed, it could be a bed bug – but it may just be another bug that’s wandered into your bed.
So how do you confirm whether it is bed bugs or not? You’ll want to check for the following signs of bed bugs:
- Bed bug bites. Are you waking up with itchiness and bites that weren’t there when you went to bed? These could be bed bug bites.
- Dark spots. Are there dark spots that look like ink stains left by a pen on your bedsheets, mattress or pillowcases? It could be bed bug feces.
- Blood stains. Are there little blotches of blood stains on your sheets? That could be blood left my bed bugs that were squashed after feeding.
- Molted skin. If you see shed skin that looks like a bug, it could be the skins of bed bugs shed as they molt.
There are other signs of bed bugs as well, such as finding bed bug eggs, but the the “gold standard” to confirming that you have bed bugs is finding an adult bed bug itself.
If you’ve found such a specimen, the next step is to make sure it is, indeed, a bed bug. Here’s a collection of what bed bugs look like so you can make the identification.
How to Check Your Bed for Bed Bugs
Now you know the signs of bed bugs to be on the lookout for. So where should you look?
Bed bugs are tiny – about the width of a credit card, to be exact. And bed bug nymphs and eggs are even smaller, which means that these bloodsuckers can wedge themselves into the smallest of crevices.
Here are the places they are most likely to be hiding in your bed:
- The piping at the top and bottom of the mattress, especially the corners
- The seal or tag of the mattress and box spring
- The underside of the box spring
Here’s a great video that shows you how to do a thorough check for bed bugs:
Keep in mind that bed bugs like to set up shop close to you but also don’t want to be disturbed. For that reason, it’s unlikely that they will be lurking on the top of your mattress.
But they will be near – be especially thorough when checking around the seams of your mattress and underneath your box springs.
Do Bed Bugs Only Live in Beds?
Nope. Bed bugs are attracted to us by our body heat and the carbon dioxide we exhale so any place we live, sleep, rest, work, and stay will be a good housing situation for them.
That means bed bugs can live pretty much anywhere – furniture, behind headboards and pictures on the wall, clothes, inside luggage and purses, even inside appliances like alarm clocks and coffee makers!
This is why you should be careful about what you bring into your home – things like used furniture and clothes are common causes of bed bugs.
But while they can and will live in almost anything that’s available to them, bed bugs do have a soft spot for beds.
That’s because beds make for a particularly enticing home for a family of bed bugs.
Mattresses, box springs, and even the bed frame can make cozy places for the bed bugs to hide and breed in while the vulnerable position we’re in when we’re sleeping makes it the perfect feeding grounds for bed bugs.
Lucky for us, bed bugs lurking in the bed are fairly easy to get rid of.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in a Mattress
Ready to unleash the fury and obliterate these blood suckers? Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress in just 3 easy steps – and make sure they don’t move back in.
Create a Bed Bug Free Zone
The first thing you want to do to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress is to secure it from bed bugs.
Your first move is to literally move your bed away from the walls and other furniture. Isolate it in the center of the room if you have to, just make sure it’s not touching anything – only the legs should be touching the floor.
If the bottom of your mattress or box spring is on the floor, get yourself some universal bed legs or bed lifts. Since bed bugs cannot jump or fly, they’re only able to get to your bed by crawling so lifting you bed up allows you to eliminate the majority of the bed bug highway to your bed.
Next, place bed bug traps under all four bed legs. Bed bugs will crawl up the grooved outer edge of the trap and then get stuck in the ridge, preventing them from making their way into your bed.
Now that you’ve made sure more bed bugs can’t get to your mattress, let’s kill the ones that are currently living in it.
How to Kill the Bed Bugs in a Mattress
This is the satisfying part: killing the bed bugs that have been living in your mattress. Of course, the last thing you want to do is douse your precious bed in chemicals – you sleep there, after all!
The good news is that the best way to kill bed bugs on your mattress is all natural – and highly effective to boot.
So how do we do it? Through the steady application of heat. Heat is one of the most effective ways to kill bed bugs. Here’s how to use it to get rid of bed bugs in a mattress.
Use heat to kill bed bugs on your bedding
Let’s start with the easy stuff – your sheets, pillowcases, and comforter. Strip your bed of everything and wash and dry it at the highest setting.
Wondering what temperature kills bed bugs? It depends how long the heat is sustained. Bed bugs will die at 113 degrees Fahrenheit as long as it’s sustained for 90 minutes or more. But raise the temperature just a bit to 118 degrees Fahrenheit? Bed bugs will die in just 20 minutes.
Bed bug eggs take a little longer to kill off – to get rid of them, you need to expose them to 118 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 minutes to reach 100% mortality.
Since clothes dryers typically reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit – you’re in luck. The bed bugs will probably be dead after 30 minutes on high heat, but run it for at least 90 minutes to make sure you killed them the eggs as well.
Use heat to kill bed bugs on your mattress
The mattress is a little bit trickier since you can’t just throw it in the wash.
So how to kill bed bugs in a mattress? Steam them to death.
A professional heat steam treatment costs $300 to $1,200 but you can pick up a home steam cleaner that you can use again and again to clean and sanitize your house, even after you get rid of bed bugs.
Our favorite steamer for bed bugs is the Vapamore Primo Steam Cleaning System. It produces steam that heats up to 214 degrees, which is hot enough to kill bed bugs on contact. And while it is a little pricey, it’s great quality and also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Steaming is slow, methodical work and will take a bit of patience. You want to move slowly enough that the heat concentration is maintained over every inch of surface – one inch per second is a good pace to remember.
Steam kills within one inch of the steamer tip so maintain at least a one inch distance to the mattress as you steam. Oh, and before you start steaming, wrap a piece of cloth around the tip of the steamer so that the steam coming out doesn’t blow bed bugs and their eggs across the room.
Here’s a helpful video on steaming your mattress.
You’ll also want to steam your box springs and the entire bed frame as well.
Trap and kill bed bugs in your mattress
What if you don’t have a steam cleaner and you don’t want to get one? There is definitely another option.
This one is all about keeping the remaining bed bugs trapped in the bed. Why would you want to do this, you wonder.
Well, it serves two very useful purposes. One, you immediately put a stop to any bed bugs living on your mattress from biting you every night. And two, because the bed bugs on your mattress can’t get to you (or anyone else), they end up starving to death.
But bed bug starvation can take awhile – up to 400 days – so we’re going to go an extra step to make sure they die off faster.
To do this, you’ll need:
- Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth (DE) – get it here. DE is probably the most popular (and effective) natural bed bug treatment. It’s made up of fossilized sea creatures called diatoms whose bodies are primarily made up of silicon dioxide. When bed bugs come in contact with DE, it begins to absorbs the oils and fats from within the bed bug, drying it to death from the inside out.
- A mattress cover – get it here. In order for DE to work, bed bugs must come in contact with it. The best way to ensure this happens is to seal off your mattress, preventing any bed bugs from escaping. The best one for this purpose is Sleep Defense System’s bed bug proof mattress cover – it feels great on skin and doesn’t make crinkling noises when you move.
Here’s how you do it:
- Before you start. Wait until your mattress is dry before sprinkling DE since it must be dry in order for it to work. Also, DE is natural and safe but it can cause irritation if it comes in contact with your skin, eyes or if inhales so wear a face mask, gloves and goggles.
- Apply the DE. Sprinkle the DE dust throughout your entire mattress. Make sure to distribute it evenly all over the surface so the bed bugs can’t avoid it – if you throw mounds of the stuff here and there, the bed bugs will just walk around it. Use a duster to make it easy to evenly distribute the bed bug-killing powder.
- Seal it off. Encase your mattress with the cover, making escape impossible for the bed bugs. This mattress cover seals tightly, but just to be safe, put duct tape over the zipper just to make sure not even the tiniest nymphs escape.
- Make it easy to spot bed bugs. A smart extra step to take to protect yourself from bed bugs is to use light-colored bedding from now on so you can easily spot any bed bugs trying to take up residence on your sheets.
DE can kill bed bugs within 24 to 48 hours after contact, but to make sure you kill all living adult and nymph bed bugs as well as any eggs, keep the mattress sealed like this for at least 4 to 6 weeks.
This should wipe out pretty much all the bastards living in your bed bug mattress, but since there is always the chance that a few may not come in contact with the DE – we recommend you keep the mattress cover on for up to a year.
Why? Bed bugs can live up to a year without a blood meal, so starving any bed bugs that might’ve escaped the DE is a surefire way of making sure you’ve killed all the bed bugs in your mattress. Plus, Sleep Defense’s mattress cover is just as comfortable as sleeping without one.
Okay, that’s it. If you followed all these steps, you’re on your way to a bed bug free mattress. Ready to get started eliminating these nasty bloodsuckers from the rest of your home? Here’s how to get rid of bed bugs everywhere.
Is There a Bed Bug Proof Mattress?
Once you’ve dealt with the pain and trauma of having bed bugs infesting your mattress, you understand the allure of a bed bug proof mattress.
In fact, you may have been searching for a bed bug resistant mattress yourself already. But does such a thing exist?
We’re sad to say: not really.
But what about the anti bed bug mattresses you’ve seen advertised online. Don’t those work?
To be honest, there is no mattress that is going to be 100% resistant to bed bugs. The bed bug proof mattresses being advertised online are usually just an ordinary mattress that has a special encasement added to it.
And you can easily replicate that yourself by getting yourself one of the best bed bug mattress covers.
Otherwise, your best bet when it comes to a bed bug resistant mattress is an air mattress, as there is simply nowhere for the bed bugs to hunker down and hide.
But if you don’t want to sleep on an air mattress for the indefinite future, a bed bug proof mattress cover is the way to go.
How to Dispose of a Mattress with Bed Bugs
Perhaps the bed bug infestation has gone too far. Or maybe you’ve been planning on getting a new mattress for awhile and this is just the last straw.
Either way, you’re going to toss the mattress. But how do you dispose of a mattress with bed bugs?
Here’s what you need to do.
Make sure it won’t be re-used
To keep the bed bug menace from spreading, you’ll want to use something sharp to destroy the mattress fabric. That will dissuade people looking to take home and re-use the mattress.
Then, take it a step further and write “BED BUGS” in large, clear letters with a marker or spray paint.
Cover before you remove
We know: you just want to haul this infested mattress far, far away from your home. But resist the urge, especially before it’s totally covered.
Removing a bed bug infested mattress comes with the risk of dropping bed bugs and bed bug eggs through your home and spreading the infestation.
Not to mention, leaving the bed bug mattress unsealed gives these pests the opportunity to make their way back into your home while it sits on your curbside for a couple of days.
To prevent either of the above from happening, wrap your mattress in plastic wrap or plastic shrink wrap. Use duct tape to make sure it is securely sealed.
If your original “BED BUG” sign is not visible after wrapping, use marker or spray paint to mark it again so no one will be tempted to take the infested mattress home.
And there you have it, the ins and outs of dealing with bed bugs in mattresses.